All eyes are on the Supreme Court, which is set to deliver the verdict tomorrow on the appeal filed by war criminal Mir Quasem Ali challenging his death penalty amid comments from different persons including two ministers on the chief justice.
A five-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha is set to sit at 9:00am and pronounce the judgment at the beginning of tomorrow’s court proceedings.
This is the seventh time the Appellate Division of the SC is going to deliver a verdict on an appeal against an International Crimes Tribunal’s judgment.
The four other judges of the bench are Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, Justice Hasan Foez Siddique, Justice Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Mohammad Bazlur Rahman.
On February 24, the apex court bench fixed tomorrow for delivering the verdict on the appeal of Quasem Ali after concluding its hearing.
Today, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam hoped that the capital punishment of Quasem Ali will be upheld in the SC judgement.
Talking to reporters at his office, the top law officer of the state said the apex court will deliver the verdict on the basis of statements of witnesses, evidence, information and documents.
And therefore, the politicians’ remarks about the chief justice will not affect the verdict on the appeal of Mir Quasem Ali, he added.
Meanwhile, Qasem Ali’s principal lawyer Khandker Mahbub Hossain also expressed hopes that his client will get justice from the SC.
He said they will accept the apex court judgement.
Khandker Mahbub said the apex court has been undermined due to the comments of the two ministers. He also hoped that the apex court will take action against them.
On March 5 and 6, Food Minister Qamrul Islam and Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque blasted Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha.
Qamrul, also a joint general secretary of Dhaka City Awami League, at a meeting of the party on March 6 alleged that the chief justice was openly speaking in language used by BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and their lobbyists in their efforts to undermine the war crimes trial.
The same day, Mozammel Haque, the Liberation War minister, said the chief justice should not be delivering the verdict in Quasem’s case at all.
“You [the CJ] are the top judge of the country. You consider it yourself if it will be reasonable for you to deliver the verdict after making such comments. In my view, it will not be right at all,” a private television quoted Mozammel as telling a discussion of Bangabandhu Sangskritik Jote on March 6.
On March 5, Qamrul demanded that the appeal in Quasem’s case be reheard by a reconstituted Appellate Division bench, keeping the chief justice out of it. He added that the CJ in an open court made some observations that raised questions about the prosecutors and investigators' role in the trial.
Speaking at the same discussion on March 5, the Liberation War minister had said if the CJ had indeed made such comments, as a judge and responsible citizen, he must as well know the remedy.
On March 6, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam termed their comments unconstitutional and unprecedented, and urged all to refrain from making any hostile comment about the CJ.
Meanwhile, a SC lawyer today served a legal notice to the two ministers requesting them to explain their comments about the chief justice.
SM Zulfiqure Ali sent the notice to Food Minister Qamrul Islam and Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque requesting their explanation in black and white within 24 hours.
In the notice, Zulfiqure asked the ministers to explain as to why their March 5 comments about the CJ and a subjudice matter should not be declared illegal, unconstitutional and considered as offence tantamount to contempt of court.
He said if the two ministers do not make any explanation in 24 hours, he will file a writ petition with the High Court seeking necessary orders on them.
On February 24, on the seventh and last day of the hearing on the appeal of Mir Quasem Ali, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam prayed to the apex court to uphold the International Crimes Tribunal-2 verdict that sentenced Mir Quasem Ali to death for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.
He said the charges brought against Quasem Ali for his involvement in the killing of freedom fighters Jasim, Tuntu Sen and Ranjit Das and dumping their bodies into the Karnaphuli river in Chittagong were proved beyond reasonable doubt. The ICT-2 had legally and rightly convicted and sentenced him to death, he added.
Placing a document, Mahbubey Alam told the apex court that Mir Quasem Ali had spent $25 million for foreign lobbyists to foil his trial.
Khandker Mahbub Hossain, principal counsel for Quasem Ali, has meanwhile urged the SC to free his client from all charges he was found guilty of by the tribunal. He argued that the prosecution has failed to produce any direct evidence before the court about the charges.
He said Mir Quasem was not involved in any offences mentioned in the charges, as he was not in Chittagong where the offences took place in November 1971.
The war crimes case was filed against the Jamaat leader only to harass and malign him, although no single case was filed against him in the previous 40 years, he claimed.
Khandker Mahbub said the ICT-2 has sentenced Mir Quasem to death on the basis of hearsay statements of the prosecution witnesses, although relevant eyewitnesses of the incidents were available.
The eyewitnesses were not brought to the tribunal and their statements were not recorded and examined, he alleged, adding that one of the victims Jasim’s brother Dr Rajib, who is a university professor, was not brought to the tribunal and his statement was not recorded.
The defence counsel said there is no question of killing Tuntu Sen, as the investigation officer examined him during investigation. He also argued that there is no relevant document about the killing of Ranjit.
According to the prosecution, Mir Quasem was the president of Chittagong town unit Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, until November 6, 1971. He was then made the general secretary of the East Pakistan Chhatra Sangha.
He went into hiding after the Pakistan occupation forces and their local collaborators surrendered on December 16, 1971.